Indian worshipers killed in stampede | News | DW | 15.10.2016
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Indian worshipers killed in stampede

A deadly stampede has killed a group of Hindu worshipers heading to a religious event in northern India, police said. The crowd came out to pay their respect to a late Indian guru on the Ganges River.

Event organizers expected several thousand visitors for the Saturday ceremony, but were instead faced with a 70,000-strong crowd when the stampede started near the holy town of Varanasi, local police said.

At least 19 people were killed, and another 25 injured in the incident, officials told local reporters. State police chief Javeed Ahmed blamed overcrowding on a bridge for the disaster.

"Rumors about the bridge collapse led to chaos after a man fell down in a crowd," he told reporters.

The massive crowd was gathering near the Ganges for a religious ceremony honoring a local Hindu religious leader, Jai Baba Gurudev, who died in 2012. Gurudev is one of several self-styled "godmen" who enjoy a large cult-like following.

TV footage from the scene showed authorities trying to clear up the debris.

"There was a lot of chaos, all of us were pushed and shoved. Many people have died including my mother," a witness told reporters.

Deadly stampedes are fairly common in India, where police and volunteers are often overwhelmed by the number of worshipers at religious events. Last July, a stampede at a another religious ceremony  killed 27 people in the south of the country, three years after a stampede in the central state of Madhya Pradesh claimed 115 lives.

dj/jlw (AP, AFP)

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